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Local Currency - How the Lewes pound is protecting the Local Economy, and some info about other alternative currencies

Updated on September 1, 2012

The Lewes Pound CNN report

A
Lewes:
Lewes, East Sussex, UK

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Lewes, East Sussex re-launches the Lewes Pound, with higher denomination notes in 2009

What do you do when the value of money is plummeting, and no sooner do you spend it, than most of it disappears out of the local economy? Simple! Print your own local currency, and use it only within the local community. That is the radical solution proposed by the Transition Town network, and a small number of Transition Towns are either trialling such a scheme, or already have it in place.Lewes in East Sussex, England, is one such town, and their new currency, the Lewes Pound, originally went live in September 2008.

The initial print run of 10,000 proved extremely popular and the notes quickly became a rarity in the shops, because people treated them as collectibles, but subsequent print runs found their way into peoples' wallets and began to prove the local currency of choice in many of the independent stores and business that line the streets of this historic and picturesque old town. Approximately one hundred and thirty shops and businesses including four pubs have now signed up to accept the Lewes pound, and it is exactly inter-changeable with the normal pound sterling, and has the same value. The local Barclays Bank has also agreed to operate the scheme, and Lewes inhabitants are very excited by the benefits that they hope to accrue by ensuring that a pool of money remains within local hands providing a welcome boost to the town's prosperity. The new, higher denomination notes launched in 2009 have taken the scheme to a new level, and as of May 2010, steps have been taken to further improve and integrate the currency.

The Lewes pound and it's various denominations, cannot, by law, display the Queen's head but is, however, legal tender. 'There will always be a need for a national currency, but it's a question of trying to go back to what can be done locally,' said Oliver Dudok van Heel, one of the scheme's initiators. 'With the current credit crunch, there is some disquiet about the global economic system, and who knows how important this could be? Studies show if there is more than 12 per cent unemployment in a community these systems become very popular.'

Sustainability expert, Beth Ambrose denied that the Lewes pound was a declaration of independence. 'This is not us versus the rest of the world. All we want to do is strengthen what's good in our community.' She said.

Short clip about the Transition Towns Initiative

So What's a Transition Town?

 

Other towns in the UK rolling out similar schemes include Totnes in Devon, where a local currency has been operating since 2007. Brixton, in South London is working on the introduction of the ‘Brixton Brick', and a number of other communities operating within the Transition Towns Initiative are hoping to join the party soon.

For those of you reading this and wondering what the heck a Transition Town might be, you can get up to speed by checking out my hub about the Transition Town Network:

http://hubpages.com/hub/Transition-Towns--Peak-Oil--Climate-Change--and-Where-Do-We-Go-From-Here

The Transition Towns network is currently going from strength to strength and has over 330 member communities in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and the USA already actively involved, and almost 1000 others world-wide in the process of joining. Broadly speaking these are communities who want to safeguard their existence in an increasingly hostile economic climate. At first glance their activities, though worthy, appear simplistic and small scale. They promote locally grown produce, and community gardens, farmers markets, and improved recycling.

But the thing is, if we get things right on a small scale we can protect ourselves to some extent from the tsunami that is currently engulfing the world's economies. Any initiative that brings food production back into the local community, promotes local enterprise, and takes a stand on pollution, has to be moving in the right direction.

 

 

Berkshares

More local currencies: Ithaca Hours and Berkshares

Ithaca Hours

Ithaca Hours is a well-established local currency system in use around the Ithaca district of New York. It actively promotes local economic strength and local self-reliance by keeping money local. Over 900 participants accept Ithaca Hours for goods and services, and many employers pay some, or all of their wage bill, in the local currency. This scheme is now so large and successful that it is able to offer small businesses Ithaca Hours business loans at 0% interest. Find out more information at their website:

http://www.ithacahours.com/

Berkshares

Another well-known local currency initiative, also in the USA, is Berkshares, available in the Southern Berkshire region of Massachusetts. This scheme is designed to encourage people to choose local produce, local industries, local businesses, over and above national and international businesses, thus strengthening the regional economy.

Unlike some other local currency schemes, Berkshares have a built-in 10% incentive to encourage their use. If you go to a local restaurant, for example, and pay in Berkshares, you receive an automatic 10% discount to the listed dollar price. This cost is borne by the trader, but only becomes applicable if the trader needs to exchange his Berkshares for dollars.

http://www.berkshares.org/

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  • Hedocurus profile image

    Hedocurus 

    6 years ago from Olive Branch, MS

    Intriguing.

  • Amanda Severn profile imageAUTHOR

    Amanda Severn 

    9 years ago from UK

    Hi LGali

    Thanks for stopping by.

    Hi LondonGirl,

    I hadn't thought of our stamps in that way. I always assumed the value changed when the price went up, or maybe I just don't hold on to stamps that long! I'm not sure about using them as currency though, regardless of the value.

    The Lewes scheme has come about as a direct involvement with the Transition Towns Network, which is interesting in it's own right, and is growing all the time.

  • LondonGirl profile image

    LondonGirl 

    9 years ago from London

    Hi Amanda - a fascinating hub. I've heard of similar schemes elsewhere, but not the Lewes one.

    "What do you think about "forever stamps" put out recently by the US Postal System? They are supposed to be worth the value of posting a normal, standard size envelope within the US, regardless of how the price of postage goes up"

    We have those in the UK anyway. A lot of stamps say "1st" or "2nd" and they are still 1st or 2nd class stamps even when the price goes up.

  • Lgali profile image

    Lgali 

    9 years ago

    great hub

  • Amanda Severn profile imageAUTHOR

    Amanda Severn 

    9 years ago from UK

    Thanks Rik,

    I hope 2009 will prove to be a better year for all of us.

  • Rik Ravado profile image

    Rik Ravado 

    9 years ago from England

    Amanda

    This is really interesting - particularly as we don't live that far from Lewes. I'm facinated by LETS schemes but have never participated in one. Thanks for stopping by my first anniversary hub

    Wishing you a happy Christmas and a great New Year (in spite of the economic gloom!)

  • Amanda Severn profile imageAUTHOR

    Amanda Severn 

    10 years ago from UK

    Hi Paraglider,

    The Lewes Pounds are available in exchange for sterling from the Town Hall, Barclays Bank, and one or two designated traders. In addition they can be requested as change in any of the seventy plus businesses now signed up to the scheme. At the moment the scheme is running in parallel for the sake of simplicity, but in the event of the collapse of sterling (?!?!) it could presumably operate independantly. Hopefully that is never going to happen, but I can fully understood how current global events might encourage small town based economic ideas.

  • Paraglider profile image

    Dave McClure 

    10 years ago from Kyle, Scotland

    Hi Amanda. I like the idea, but I don't yet see how it works if the Lewes pound is tied to the GBP. How does an individual buy into the scheme?

  • Amanda Severn profile imageAUTHOR

    Amanda Severn 

    10 years ago from UK

    Hi Ajcor,

    Bartercard is a much older scheme than the Transition Towns network, and already operates internationally, and I believe that it's very strong in Australia.

    The Transition Towns Initiative is only a couple of years old, but it's growing extremely fast, and there are already a number of TTs in Australia and NZ which I now have listed on my original Transition Towns hub. These alternative currencies are not (yet) as sophisticated as Bartercard, and are not designed to extend beyond a small area. They are all about keeping money local, and encouraging people to support their own home-grown enterprises, keeping regional economies flourishing.

  • ajcor profile image

    ajcor 

    10 years ago from NSW. Australia

    great hub inspired by a really good idea! I have indulged in the odd  contra deal - bartering in todays climate seems like a great idea. In Australia I have only heard about barter card - would this be a part of Transition Towns network?

  • Amanda Severn profile imageAUTHOR

    Amanda Severn 

    10 years ago from UK

    Hi Chef Jeff

    Thanks for dropping by.

    The Lewes pound runs in parallel to the national currency and is interchangeable with it, so it doesn't matter if people don't stick around, they can simply exchange the Lewes pounds for sterling at the local bank.

    Husky Bucks sounds like a similar scheme to Berkshares. The incentive to use them is the 10% discount and the benefit to the traders is the fact that people like these schemes, and will choose to patronise their businesses over other non-participating traders. These alternative currencies are apparently enjoying quite a boost in popularity as everything else becomes less certain, and less reliable. I like the idea of bartering. A favour for a favour sounds like a good way to go on, especially as the Inland Revenue need never get involved!

  • Chef Jeff profile image

    Chef Jeff 

    10 years ago from Universe, Milky Way, Outer Arm, Sol, Earth, Western Hemisphere, North America, Illinois, Chicago.

    In a settled community where people tend to stay put, perhaps it will be a very good thing.  However, where I live people come and go yearly, so I doubt a local currency to replace the dollar would work. 

    Just the same, being near to the Northern Illinois University, people buy Husky Bucks, named after he mascot, a canine Husky, valued at $1, $5 and $10 and use them at local stores.  Maybe it's kind of the same thing?  In this case 10% of every purchase goes to a local charity, and any store can sign up, chain or independent.

    Still, the way things are going in our country, barter may once again become the currency of everyday life!

  • Amanda Severn profile imageAUTHOR

    Amanda Severn 

    10 years ago from UK

    I see where you're coming from Brainstormer. I pay for pretty much everything by plastic, but there's no incentive to do otherwise hereabouts. If I lived in Lewes I feel sure I'd join in, at least with the small purchases. I don't know how you'd police counterfeiting, but I suspect that's why they're starting off with a pound as this is a relatively low denomination and scarcely worth the effort of replication.

    Eftpos is pretty universal and I guess we're all working on the assumption that the banking sector is secure? Or maybe we're not! Perhaps this is also a small attempt at hedging their bets.

  • Brainstormer profile image

    Brainstormer 

    10 years ago from Australia

    Hi Amanda, this is a new one on me and I appreciated you posting this Hub. I think I understand the concepts here, its all about buying local and supporting local business. Good concept however I wonder how worthwhile it would be. Eftpos is freely available at most outlets. Other problems that I wonder about are; how hard is it to counterfeit and who pays for the printing? Feel free to point out that I have totally missed the point.

    Thanks Amanda.

  • Amanda Severn profile imageAUTHOR

    Amanda Severn 

    10 years ago from UK

    Hi Aya Katz,

    The Lewes Pound is tied to the UK sterling pound, and is subject to all it's ups and downs.

    I can't imagine what currency will hold it's value no matter what, other than perhaps, our own skills which we might barter or exchange for other goods and services. I've never heard of the Forever Stamps. We don't have these in the UK. I'm not sure whether they would prove a good investment. I guess it would depend on whether you had a ready market to pass them on to, and whether that market considered them to be a premium item.

  • Aya Katz profile image

    Aya Katz 

    10 years ago from The Ozarks

    Amanda, this is very interesting. Is the Lewes Pound tied to any standard of value, like the price of silver or gold? Or how about Petrol!

    I am looking for something that promises to retain its value, no matter what happens in the economy. What do you think about "forever stamps" put out recently by the US Postal System? They are supposed to be worth the value of posting a normal, standard size envelope within the US, regardless of how the price of postage goes up. Do you think they are a good investment? Could people use them as currency?

  • Amanda Severn profile imageAUTHOR

    Amanda Severn 

    10 years ago from UK

    Hi CJ

    You were quick!

    I would love this scheme to succeed, partly because I love Lewes and all it's quirky little ways, and partly because there's so much enthusiasm amongst the local people there. I think a lot of LETS schemes fail because they're focussed on bartering tokens, or exchange of services, but this scheme is being run in parallel to the national currency, and is aiming to promote and strengthen the local economy by keeping the money in the local pot. I'm encouraged by the fact that Barclays Bank has come on board, because this will help the scheme to run in a 'normal' manner.

  • CJStone profile image

    Christopher James Stone 

    10 years ago from Whitstable, UK

    Amanda, I much prefer Thomas Paine's head to the Queen's head any day. I wonder if this scheme will work. It's sounds promising, although I've known a number of similar LETS schemes to fail. The problem is that real-life skills are at a premium, so plumbers, electricians, woodworkers etc soon become LETS millionaires, while the New Age type skills tend to languish into obscurity. I think the fact that four pubs have signed up to it is very promising though, and I'd love to hear how this develops.

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